The bird in a bush

1st Sep, 2017

Illustration by Jenny Lamont

In which DD discovers that a bird in the hand is definitely worth the effort…  

My son, Aaron, often asks how I can be an animal lover when I’m actually rather afraid of most animals. I know it is odd, but I really do love them. I doesn’t help that I get a little nervous around big dogs or, in fact, any dogs I don’t know (and then get even more nervous about them sensing my nervousness and it all goes pear-shaped from there!). And, yes, it is true that the flutter of wings does prompt an impressive girlie scream or two out of me.

Such as on the day we rescued our white-and-blue budgie, whom we subsequently named Boris. His full name is Boris Bougainvillea (that’s where he was found) but generally he’s referred to as Boris Bird, or even Borrie when I’m trying my hand at taming him.

And on that note, it’s over 18 months since we found our feathered friend in the shrubbery and I’ve gotten absolutely NOWHERE with the taming of The Budgie Birds (we subsequently offered a loving home to another rescue budgie named Georgie). One would think I would just give up trying to tame them both, but I can’t. I live in the hope that one day they’ll sit happily on either shoulder as I work, fly freely around my office and snuggle down on my lap for an afternoon nap (giggle, do budgies even do that?).

A parrot in the bougainvillea

So, how did Boris flap his way into our lives? On a lazy Sunday afternoon, the familiar ping of WhatsApp on our street group: “There is a parrot in the bougainvillea of No. 29”. After immediately leaping off the couch to help, it suddenly dawned on us that we ARE number 29! Upping our speed, we dashed out to the front bush and – lo and behold! – there he sat, as cool as a cucumber. (To this day, we wonder if someone hadn’t abandoned him there, knowing that it was a great place to leave him – what with the crazy animal lady in the road!)

Shouting instructions for The Dad to get the wicker cat carrier (the only thing we had) and shuffling Aaron out of the way, I thought it looked rather easy to just pluck him out of the bush, like an apple. Hah! Not quite. He flew directly at me! I screamed and he fluttered underneath my car in the driveway.

By the time The Dad came out, I was on my hands and knees, butt in the air, peering under the car, and Aaron was in the same position on the other side. “What part of ‘just wait there’ didn’t you guys get?” he huffed in a rather less-than-amused way.

We tried our best to capture him (Boris, that is); we nearly got it right, too, right up until he zoomed menacingly towards me, causing me to run away screaming like a banshee. Finally, The Dad came to everyone’s rescue. He got Aaron to swiftly remove his t-shirt and, in the blink of an eye, he’d tossed said t-shirt over Boris and had him safely in the cat carrier.

So, there we sat: three dumbstruck humans and a bewildered budgie – I’m sure that finding himself in a carrier smelling of cats didn’t ease his nerves in any way.

To cut a long story short, I promptly fell in love with him. I ticked all the “what to do when you find a bird” boxes (yes, including trying to find his owners); I even found more than one home for him. But, after two days of hanging out with him (A LOT), I found myself ferociously protective of him and didn’t think anyone could possibly love him as much as I did. He was my new best friend! And it didn’t take The Dad long before he was heard asking, “How’s our budgie doing?” when he called from work. Clearly Boris Bougainvillea had won us all over!

Feathery fails

There were a few ups and downs. Like the morning that The Dad put the sprinkler on, forgetting that Boris Bird was enjoying his time in the cage hanging in the tree! I don’t normally do “run”, but you would have been impressed! I think I levitated off the couch, right across the patio and into the wet to save our Boris! His coif dried faster than my impressive cow’s licks! James said they are waterproof… are they? Birds – not my cow’s licks, which clearly aren’t! Boris wasn’t too bothered by the sprinkle at all, but I quickly redid his lodgings with some definite “angry eyes” in The Dad’s general direction.

Then there was the time when Boris got poop stuck to his butt feathers and, try as he might, he couldn’t, um, shake it. Being his mom (and a Virgo mom at that), it was a real concern for me. We tried as gently as we could to “help” him, but to no avail – we all ended up feeling rather tense and bewildered (I think us more than him – he went straight back to eating his seed – unless he is an emotional eater, which wouldn’t come as a surprise, it runs in the family!) and I went to bed praying “poop must fall”.

And then, not long after we’d rescued him, Boris fell ill.

Sick chick

I know my animals well and immediately noticed that he was behaving strangely. More strangely than normal. I have my trusty bird rescuer lady on WhatsApp and was in constant communication with her. He’d eaten his dinner so I hoped he was just having a moment. I could tick the “eating/drinking/pooping/chirping” boxes. But, alas, by the next morning, he was not home to Mr Happy so I wasted no time in finding my nearest avian vet.

As a first-time budgie momma, it was also the first time I’d ever taken a wee birdy to the vet; I sang to him on the way, and drove as slowly as I could so as not to let him fall off his perch. Wishing I’d put a little sign in the window saying “Sick Budgie on Board”, we made it there okay. Boris was feeling too ill be bothered and I looked more rattled than he did. He just sat on his perch and closed his eyes.

We were a sight for sore eyes – literally. I’d woken up with a bunged-up eye (I suspect I’d got a bird seed in it) and Boris wasn’t looking much better!

The kind vet checked him over and declared that, aside from being ill with an unknown bug, for which we got antibiotics, he also had unusually small eyes – tiny pin pricks really. This led me to think that maybe he had been abandoned in our bougainvillea after all for being a “dud” budgie? Either way, I still felt glad that Boris was left in my garden, even if I was possibly going to lose my eyesight for the rough budgie seed in my eye – hey, I could still see out of the other!

Singing the budgerigar blues

I still get cold shivers when I think back on the following five days when I had to put my brave girl pants on and catch Boris (who doesn’t do “catch” very well) to give him his dose of meds, morning AND night. This delicate-looking little bird is pretty feisty and never have I been so grateful for James’ heavy-duty gardening gloves… Who knew a cute little budgie – and one with dodgy eyes at that – could be quite so vicious!

As the medication started working, he started to get better. The problem was that the better he got, the stronger he got. This made catching him to administer said medication even less fun. It’s amazing how hard it is to catch a determined budgie in such a small space… Once I had him, he became intent on viciously biting me; once, he got me on the soft and baggy skin between my thumb and my forefinger – and he wasn’t about to let go without a fight. Of course, I didn’t want to hurt him, which made this even harder; Boris, of course, had no such qualms about me.

But, thankfully, we made it through that challenging time in more or less one piece, and I’m pretty sure he has forgiven me by now.

I must be honest, of all my fur (and, um, feathered) kids, Boris and Georgie get the most of my attention. Even though I feel like they’re my little prisoners (I suffer budgie guilt daily), I absolutely adore them, spending hours watching and chatting to them, moving them around into different and “best” positions inside and outside throughout the day, singing them their goodnight song before bedtime, and I can’t wait to hear their first “chirp” in the morning.

I used to think it was a bit of a love/hate relationship – as in I loved them but they hated me – but I do believe that of late they are warming up to me. Here’s hoping!